As House debuts go, what was that about?

  • The House of Assembly

Last week Friday was my first time sitting in the House of Assembly, and what a day that was. Being a student of Bermudian politics for the past 15 years and listening to the House religiously, hearing some of the shenanigans by grown adults while real issues that affect Bermudians were being put to the wayside like a formality was sad, to say the least.

I witnessed prepared questions from government backbenchers to reduce the time that the Opposition had to question statements made by government ministers. One in particular that was illuminating was from Rolfe Commissiong, in his second attempt at trying to put a coherent question together at the behest of the Speaker, Dennis Lister, and David Burch, who had no idea what he was talking about, speaks to the lack of preparation of this new government.

I found myself thinking that if they couldn’t even read their prepared questions correctly, what would the future look like for Bermuda under the current government?

We then delved into an elongated period of hypocrisy. The new government decided to bring forward legislation from the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration while seamlessly making it seem to their supporters that this was the hard work of their administration, rooted in their historic win at the polls.

Accusing the OBA of inaction on key issues but putting forth legislation that would have been tabled if the electorate had given the OBA the mandate.

The debate on the Tourism Investment Act turned into a misstatement of facts that really started to heat up the House. Opposition MPs overwhelmingly supported the legislation, for how could they not support legislation that they nurtured into existence, but at the same time give prudence to the government of the day in how they handle the legislation and the present state of Bermuda’s tourism industry and development?

Which brings us to the debate within the House that started it all off: the shortfalls of our tourism industry as it relates to Bermudians and our competitiveness in our region.

All of these are relevant issues that should be discussed in our Parliament: why aren’t there more Bermudians, especially younger Bermudians, in the hospitality sector?

Is it because Bermudians love their summers? Is it because they don’t like shift work and rather have a regular 9 to 5 job? Is it because the pay is not in line with the cost of living? Or is it the stress of being laid off during the off-season with no guarantee of re-employment when the business picks up? Or is it the lack of training opportunities?

These are all questions that we as one, unified Bermuda must figure out together. How do we reduce the burden on developers as the cost to build and the bureaucracy surrounding it prevents the adequate return on investment?

These are all questions that every Bermudian, especially our lawmakers, should be discussing. Unfortunately, this sparked a firestorm of race and history of stolen lands by government MPs, and a not so helpful “wonderful boy” statement by Trevor Moniz.

These were all distractions and was an opportunity seized by the Government to make this yet another race issue. This is an all-too-common theme, which was used in the past to hide the neglect and shortsightedness of their own shortcomings and lack of competence.

However, what people will not hear about is how the Government misused budget supplementary estimates to lambast the former OBA administration into committing to events that they deemed we did not budget for. The lack of knowledge of the use of supplementary estimates by the finance minister and the lack of information provided by those ministers who were asking for supplemental monies to their budget was an embarrassment to their members and, by extension, to the country.

This was all with the backdrop of an education ministry in complete and utter chaos, from which the education minister and the Government have distanced themselves instead of leading the charge and figuring out what is really going on. A party that is hellbent on creating a Police Authority rather than forming an Education Authority, which the affairs of this past week have clearly shown we truly need.

Furthermore, the mere fact that the Minister of Public Works brought forth a plan to bring a banned substance back into Bermuda with no real idea of the consequences and social impacts is simply dumbfounding. Especially considering that he thought two months is not enough time to do research on this topic.

Then they yet again continued on their consistent public misinformation crusade with the new airport. They are still trying to misinform the public on the Airport Facility move so that they can once again turn the airport deal into the most corrupt agreement, although this was the most transparent agreement that the Government has ever entered into.

This is all in the pursuit of scoring political points. The election is over, so when will the Government stop electioneering and start, you know, governing and being held accountable by the Bermudian people?

The country believed it voted for change on July 18, that it voted in a young leader who could elevate the discussion within our country, which I wholeheartedly believe is what we need. But that was not the leadership that I saw last week Friday.

I saw petty leadership, which was more worried about scoring political points. I saw a leader who has a disorganised membership, which was totally uncoordinated in their efforts to do whatever they liked because they won in a landslide victory.

I saw a Premier and Deputy Premier heckle and taunt the Opposition leader in the most misogynistic display I have ever seen in my life. This is the party that campaigned on change and moving forward for the good of Bermudians, yet I’m concerned, as we should all be, because nothing changed on July 18. We got the Progressive Labour Party of the past: a petty, unprepared, incompetent party in relentless pursuit of absolute power.

Justin Mathias is the chairman of the Future Bermuda Alliance, the youth division of the One Bermuda Alliance. He attended Mount Saint Agnes from K12 and graduated in 2010 with an honours diploma. He attended Saint Mary’s University, graduating in 2016 with a bachelor of commerce with a major in accounting and minor in political science. He focused his political science studies in the areas of political institutions, procedures, and international relations and law. He has followed Bermudian politics since 2002, is a keen debater from his time participating in the Bermuda Debate Society events and his participation in Saint Mary’s delegation at the Model United Nations Conference in New York in 2016 when the school won a distinguished delegation award